Chewing gum has been around for years, and with more varieties than ever, health concerns regarding the mouth exercising habit have been debated continuously. So is it good for you, and can it be?
Chewing gum was a nifty invention developed by the Native Americans in the early 1800's. They would chew on the resin from spruce tree sap. Later it was commercialised and sold by John B. Curtis in 1848.
Since then, chewing gum has exploded into our everyday lives and there are a plethora of brands and types to get your mouth watering.
We all know someone who chews, you may even be a chewer yourself. Since as cyclists we like to make sure we're in tip top condition in every way we can, we've decided to take a look into the various health points raised about chewing gum.
Can chewing gum build jaw muscle? Well, the general consensus is that if you're a die hard chewer who regularly chews, then it's likely that you'll get minor gains to your jaw muscles. You may not even see the results, but repetitive training of a particular group of muscles will cause development in any area of the body.
Whether or not this is actually useful in modern day society where we don't usually need to rip our food apart is debatable.
It goes without saying that chewing on gum that's full of sugar is bad for your teeth as acid build up contributes to tooth decay. However, some dentists recommend chewing on sugar-free gum after meals to help promote saliva production and reduce the plaque build up on your teeth.
Many chewers claim that chewing on gum keeps their hunger at bay, which in turn helps with appetite management for weight loss and training.
However, chewing on mint flavour gum will cause healthy snacks like diary and fruit to taste bitter, which can cause your appetite control to backfire as you reach for sweet things instead. The solution is to avoid minty flavour gum, and opt for more natural and bland flavours.
On the other end of the scale, some people believe constant chewing can cause your stomach to prepare for food - which can in turn cause you to feel hungry and snack more often: so beware if you start reaching for the biscuit tin more often!
Acid reflux, or heartburn, are caused by a build up of acid in the oesophagus which can be highly unpleasant. Chewing on gum after a meal will increase saliva production, and promoting swallowing which will help to clear acid build up quicker. However, it's best to avoid mint flavours again, as they can contribute to acid build up.
Relieves Dry Mouth
If you're like me, public speaking, presentations and even interviewing my idols will result in two things: word vomit and dry mouth. Sometimes glugging back the water just doesn't seem to do the trick when you really need some saliva. Chewing on gum just before hand will help combat dry mouth, just remember to dispose of it before you meet your heroes!
Concentration and Memory
Many studies have been carried out over the years that indicate chewing gum can stimulate cognitive brain function. Concentration, memory and reaction times are thought to be improved when you're chewing gum due to the increased blood flow to the brain, and thus increased the amount of oxygen to the brain. Ideal to chew before a ride or race, but perhaps not best to chew during a ride owing to choking hazards.
If you suffer from the 15:00 afternoon slump, or generally struggle to stay focused and alter during the day, studies have shown that chewing gum can reduce this affect. Not only does it promote blood flow and oxygen to the brain and increased saliva production, but chewing gum engages the jaw and stimulates the nerves responsible for an arousing affect. However minute the nerve response, it's said to be enough to fight off mid-day fatigue.
Stress and Anxiety
If you're feeling a little nervous, or you have a bad habit you want to kick, like smoking or nail biting, then chewing gum may be your aid.
Stress can have serious adverse affects on your mental and physical state. Not only does it impede your training, but it can leave you feeling exhausted, miserable and lead to more serious cases of depression and anxiety. Whilst chewing gum isn't a cure, studies have shown it to be an aid as the psychological affects of chewing gum help reduce cortisol production: the stress hormone.
Healthy Chewing Gum
Chewing gum comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and flavours, but they won't all be advantageous to the body. Sugared chewing gum has the affect of causing acid build up in the mouth which can contribute to tooth decay. Although sugar-free gum is said to be better, some varieties can contain chemicals like aspartame and other additives. While these chemicals are said to be safe in small doses, there have been some cases linking them to heart disease and diabetes. So what gum should we be chewing?
There are brands who are working hard to produce "clean chewing gum". They've swapped out the artificial sweeteners in favour for natural sugars, and replaced the gum base for chicle, a natural latex made from the bark of the sapodilla tree. Basically, healthy chewing gum is taking it back to the original recipes of the 1950's, before manufacturers reduced healthiness for inflated profit margins. Here's a few healthy chewing gum examples...
Train Gum is a US brand which contains just four ingredients: chicle, natural oils, simple syrup, and rice flour as a coating.
Flavours: peppermint, grapefruit, cinnamon, lime. $2.50 per pack / £2 per pack.
CHICZA ORGANIC RAINFOREST GUM
Chicza Gum is another US brand, and the only gum to have the USDA Organic seal. It's made with evaporated cane juice, chicle, glucose, agave syrup, and natural flavours.
Flavours: mint, cinnamon, mixed berry. $1.75 per pack / £1.40 per pack
Flavours: spearmint, cinnamon, fennel licorice, maple, ginger, and coffee. Available here for £10 (6 packs)
Original varieties are sweetened with Fair Trade cane sugar and brown rice syrup; the sugar-free flavours have xylitol (natural sugar alcohol)
Flavours: cinnamon, tangerine, peppermint, spearmint, and triple berry. Available here for £34 (box of 12)
Chew on that...
There is a lot of social gripe over chewing gum. The act of chewing repetitively can be considered rude and unpleasant, but most annoyingly, gum that isn't disposed of properly splatters our side-walks, lines the undersides of desk and finds its way everywhere.
*Myth busting: Swallowing gum doesn't mean it'll stay in your guts for 7 years. Your digestive system is able to move it along quite easily*
Studies have shown that chewing gum has a number of psychological benefits, and few physical ones. Like most foods we eat, consuming the more healthier options have more benefits for our body than the sugary alternatives.
Chewing gum can be great for focusing your attention, staying alert and promoting blood and oxygen to the brain. Although, it's important to dispose of gum appropriately in the trash, rather than spitting it or sticking it somewhere. No ones wants to cycle their way through sticky globs of discarded gum!
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